2014 Projects

On the road again: To Myitkyina, Kachin State…part 1




Over the mountains to Myitkyina

Things are changing here: we now fly to Bangkok regularly ( 1 hr. 15 min ) on Nok (Bird in Thai) Air, buying our tickets through the ATM at the local 7/11 in our Mae Sot neighborhood.    After a couple of days in BKK, we flew to Mandalay for a night and then on to Myitkyina, in Kachin State, Northern Burma.  We were to work with a group of young people sponsored by the Lisu Baptist Association of Myitkyina.  Myitkyina has something like six different ethnic groups, all with their own language and apparently with their own churches: mainly Baptist, but also Anglican, Catholic, 7th Day Adventist, and Buddhist.

Lar Thar, the Association secretary, met us at the airport, and whisked us off to the YMCA, where we were to spend the next 10 days.  We then went to a restaurant on the Irawaddy River for an enormous meal; rice in banana leaves, pork salad, fried tofu, bbq chicken, eaten while looking at this famous Burmese river and surrounded by hills where until a few months ago there was fighting between the army and Kachin insurgents.  Today all was beautifully quiet, calm, and cool.

Irrawaddy River
Lar Thar (l) and friend

Food, glorious food
Uh oh!

 

Our home in Myitkyina

Bebio / Nanya maker

Most mornings, breakfast was bebio and nanya (chickpeas and flat bread) washed down with a cup of super sweet Burmese tea.  Sometimes it was ekyakwe, fried bread, that must be consumed as soon as it is made, or it sits in your stomach like a canon ball!

 

Public water bottle
Because the Lisu Baptist Association compound was a 20 minute drive out of town, Lar Tar decided that we would be ferried back and forth by motorbike.  But we can ride bikes we said.  Too dangerous, he said.  It seems that while many people here have taken advantage of lower import duties on cars, not as many have actually learned to drive!  Navigating the one lane crumbling roads is a bit like driving a bumper car, so we reluctantly agreed.

 

                            David and Nat, on the way back to town, after afternoon session
Lar Tar photographing an ant!
Hunkering down
The compound where we taught

When we got back to the Y at 4 pm, we headed for the library where we were told there was the only wifi in town.  The library was a dusty place with big tables and cupboards full of paperbound texts.  The tables were covered with popular magazines and newspapers that seemed well thumbed, although we never found it to be crowded.  The wifi was painfully slow;  it took an hour to send a simple email.  So we read comics while we waited….

A stroll through the market, pick up some UHT milk for coffee and it was back to the Y to prep for the next day.  Dinner was often eaten at an Indian stall, just four stools, chapattis and dal prepared by a mother and daughter under a very dim street light.  Delicious!

Solar panels for sale on the market street

Lunch was usually noodles, although one day when Lar Tar asked us if we ate cake, that’s what we got!

The eight students ranged in age from 18 (David) to 32 (Baw Mee).  They all belonged to the Lisu Baptist Association; Waw See was a pastor, David, a secretary, Baw Mee, a seamstress and designer, Hsee Mee, a gem dealer, Byar Lay Mee, a community development worker, Maw She and Zi See Nyo, theology students, and Lar Tar, LBA’s secretary.  Our translator was an older gentleman, also a pastor, Nwe Gyo.  Most of the students knew some English, but were shy about speaking, afraid of making mistakes.  Look at us, butchering Burmese, we said.  That’s how you learn!  And so we all stumbled around in each other’s languages and we all learned something.
The students:

Maw She  photo: David
Byar Lay Mee   photo:  Zi See Nyo
Baw Mee   photo:  Hsee Mee
Waw See   photo:  Maw She
David   photo:  Maw She
Lar Tar  photo:  Waw See
Hsee Mee  photo:  Baw Mee
Zi See Nyo photo: Byar Lay Mee

 

Father sleeping   photo: Baw Mee
My friends   photo:  David
Jump!   photo:  Byar Lay Mee
The gang’s all here!
Tai Mawm with husband and 4 month old son

The students took us  to visit Tai Mawm, who was a MY STORY photographer last year in Pyin Oo Lwin.  She was planning to teach with us for this workshop but motherhood intervened!

His name is J. Promise
Gas station for motorbikes

A closing dinner was held:  sticky rice and mountains of food at a riverside restaurant that featured eating pavilions with Western art!

The Mona Lisa…
Salvador Dali…
Buying oranges
7 am Unloading produce for the market

 



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